Cowen has not previously worked on a university campus, but she said she is looking forward to being involved in academia and working with UNC students and staff.
"I think the great opportunity of working on a university campus is actually engaging with the students," she said. "I'm looking forward to those kinds of collaborative experiences, to doing extended research, to publishing and all other kinds of great perks that come with working at a university."
Cowen most recently worked with the Joslyn Art Museum in Omaha, Neb. as an associate curator of European art, where she reinstalled European galleries that hadn't been reinstalled since 1999 or 2000, worked on major traveling exhibitions and made major acquisitions for the museum’s permanent collection.
She also curated her own show called “Dürer's Women” at The Cleveland Museum of Art, which showcased artwork created by German artist Albrecht Dürer in the late 15th and early 16th centuries. The collection was centered around themes of feminine power and authority in Dürer’s work.
Ackland Director Katie Ziglar said she thinks Cowen’s work will help connect the UNC community to the Peck, European and American art collections.
"She will be another pair of hands and another brain working on the collection, and she will be available to professors to teach class in our print study room or downstairs in the galleries,” Ziglar said. "It'll help expose the collection more and enable us to do more teaching through having yet another person on board to do it."
Peter Nisbet, deputy director for curatorial affairs at the Ackland, said Cowen’s passion about and dedication to the power of art is infectious. He thinks her perspective toward art helps her effectively share insight into the pre-1950 collection of European and American art that the museum has.
"I think it's one of our important roles within the University and the community to really communicate the excitement and the enthusiasm that art from those historical periods can generate,” Nisbet said. “I think that one of Dana's great qualities is that she is really committed to both seeing this art in its historical perspective, but also bringing out its contemporary relevance."
While Cowen said she was excited about working with a large number of pieces donated by the Pecks and with the pre-1950 European and American art collections, she said she is most excited about working at such a distinguished university.
"I think it's the potential that I see from this museum and from the UNC community,” Cowen said. “I'm new to this area, and I'm new to the South. I'm just excited because the reputation of UNC as a research institution is one that has this wonderful dynamic and important ideas floating around. I just think it's a place where there's a lot of potential for growth and for collaboration."